How to do GBS libraries with “difficult” DNA samples

First of all, let’s be clear about it: Having good amount of high quality DNA should be a starting point for all projects. Recently, we had this conversation at lab meeting about the “one rule” to succeed in establishing a lab (quoting Loren): “Don’t try to save money on DNA extraction. Working with high quality DNA reduces cost at all downstream steps, even on bioinformatics”.

However, if you need to work with “historical” DNA samples from the lab (I genotyped old DNA plates at least 8 years old) or DNA from collaborator for which you have no control over the DNA quality and/or no more plant tissue to redo DNA extraction, here are some tips on how to get a maximum out of (almost) nothing.

I started the GBS protocol with 100ng of DNA, it works. However, if you want to save yourself a lot of time and the lab some money on repeating PCR, repeating samples, repeating a lot of qubit measurement, start with 200ng.

A) If some of your DNA samples are <8.5 ng/ul (100ng protocol):

Among the 1500 DNA samples I received from a collaborator, 134 did not meet the requirement (>8.5 ng/ul) to start the GBS. I thought about concentrating these DNA with different methods: 1) using beads: you need to be ready to loose 50% of the DNA; 2) speedvac: I did not find one (supposedly there is one in the Adams lab?) and I was concerned about over-concentrating TE in the same time as DNA.

Hopefully, if you look at the digestion step, a large volume of the digestion mix is water/tris. By removing this water, I was able to include in the protocol DNA with concentration >5.8ng/ul, recovering half of my problematic samples. Just be extra-careful when pipetting the 2.8 ul of “water-free” digestion master mix. I had good PCR amplification for these samples.

B) If you are desperate:

I used whole genome amplification (WGA) prior to starting the GBS protocol to increase the DNA concentration of “historical” DNA samples. You will probably recover most of your DNA samples if they are more than 1ng/ul.

However, DO NOT MIX genome amplified and plain genomic DNA on the same plate for sequencing, especially if you pool your library before doing PCR and qubiting. The WGA samples amplify much better and Sariel showed me libraries in which few WGA samples took a large part of the sequencing reads. It’s a recipe for disaster and high missing data.

My strategy was to qubit all the DNA plates and estimate the remaining volume. If the remaining DNA sample was less than 100ng, I did WGA but I moved these samples to specific WGA plates. It’s a bit more work because if your samples are already in plates, you will need to relocate all your samples. From my experience, it’s worth it.